Work keeps moving forward for Inver Grove Heights park

Roughly three weeks after the opening of a new dog park, the Inver Grove Heights City Council on June 24 approved a contract for a second phase of improvements at Heritage Village Park.

Work in this second phase – which will cost about $1.6 million — will include a 53-car parking lot with additional ADA stalls, trail connection, parking lot lighting, landscaping and ground cover establishment, preparing the park for future improvements as funding becomes available. 

The council unanimously approved — with council member Rosemary Piekarski Krech absent — a contract with Dahn Construction for the second phase of improvements at the park, with construction set to take place between July and October of this year.

 

Setting the park up for the future

Work at Heritage Village Park, 4321 65th St., has been an ongoing process, with the first master plan being developed in 2004.

Eric Carlson, parks and recreation director, said in 2010, the city received approval from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to begin using the property — which had been acquired in 1999 and was a former railroad property — for recreational purposes after remediation. 

Over the last 20 years, the city has been acquiring properties along Doffing Avenue to help reduce the risk of flooding with the intent of constructing a park. Carlson said the final piece of property that will be part of Heritage Village Park was closed on June 21.

Carlson said that improvements approved during the June 24 meeting prepare the park for further improvements when funding is secured. This could include amenities like an inclusive playground — meaning it is accessible for kids and of all abilities — shelter and restroom, historical interpretation, splash pad, amphitheater and other possible amenities. 

“At this point in time, we don’t have funding for those things,” Carlson said.

 

A future park for all

During the June 24 meeting, many residents spoke in favor of the creation of a future inclusive playground, rather than a regular playground. 

Resident Katie Hill, who supports an inclusive playground, said that while the city has invested a lot in the preparation of the park, she sees it as an important investment, one that could provide economic growth for the city. 

Hill said she frequents an inclusive playground in Woodbury where, on visits over the past two months, she’s counted over 85 vehicles each time she has gone. She said when she asked people at the park what city they were from, a majority said they traveled to Woodbury specifically for the park and that many visited it regularly. Hill herself said she will do errands in Woodbury after visiting the park.

“That’s a good chunk of money that I reserve every month for a different city because of that destination,” Hill said, adding that a similar park in Inver Grove Heights could serve the same purpose, attracting people to the area where they would spend money.  

Niki Barker, who is on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission, said she doesn’t feel an inclusive playground is about individual groups or specific disabilities, but rather a reflection of the city and its priorities.  

“I think it could really show our commitment to everyone in this community and to say that we value everyone,” Barker said. 

Carlson added that the city does see Heritage Village Park as a gateway to economic development in the area.

 

 

The rest of the work

Councilmember Tom Bartholomew said getting the infrastructure in place is important and remaining problems can be tackled as they arise and funding is found.

“If we were to wait and do nothing … I think we would set ourselves up for a much larger expense when we get to time to do that,” Bartholomew said. “I believe in the park. I was on the first citizen’s park commission in 2003, and I think at this point, this is the right decision to make.”

Carlson said that many of the future improvement plans are still up in the air because there is very little funding. However, he said the city will work to develop plans and specifications for a playground and shelter this winter with the goal of work taking place next May through July.

 

–Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com 

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